Education Week recently asked ten leading professionals how schools can prepare children today for the careers they will pursue in 10 or 20 years, given our pace of technological change makes technical skills outmoded much faster. Martin Cothran at the Classical Latin School Association exerpts some of their responses, with commentary:
Michael Chui, with the McKinsey Global Institute, says ‘not to believe anyone claiming they can accurately predict what jobs will still be around, or what precise skills students will need, in 15 years.’ This is an implicit argument for a liberal arts education, since the whole point of such an education is to provide students with broad skills they can universally apply, along with a wide body of knowledge that will help them no matter what career they end up pursuing…
According to James Paul Gee, Literacy Studies professor at Arizona State University, it’s not necessarily having the skill of manipulating data that is important, but the wisdom to know what to do with it that matters: ‘Schools need to focus on developing morally good people who can deal with complexity and collaborate with others to make things better,” Gee said. ‘That’s certainly better than saying, ‘Let’s prepare Johnny to program AI [artificial intelligence],’ when that AI will turn around and program Johnny right out of a job.’
When schools focus on technical skills that are trendy now — like computer programming or having students put together PowerPoints and Prezis in English class — they are often actually wasting students’ time, because it’s unlikely those narrow skills will be useful a decade or two down the road when those children are adults.
What children need from a truly broad education is to develop their judgment to know how to use any tool and to be skilled at learning new things, which requires a deep and sustained study into human nature and the development of virtues such as persistence, courage, and curiosity. This is precisely what the classical curriculum is designed to effect. In focusing on the temporary end product of these mental and moral virtues rather than these enduring, broadly applicable virtues themselves, many schools unwittingly handicap the children in their care.
Here’s the EdWeek link if you want to read more.